Technically speaking, innovation is the introduction of something new. Nearly every company claims to be innovative, but what does that really mean? Innovation isn't just about delivering a new product or service to the marketplace; it's about that product or service making a significant bottom-line impact on the business. If a company introduces a new widget that no one wants or buys, what good is it? Innovation without business or social impact is not really innovation at all.
As it turns out, innovation and time to market go hand in hand. Companies that are the first to deliver a unique product or service are more likely to be seen as innovative market leaders. Conversely, companies that take a long time to develop products are seen as followers -- or are not seen at all. In a highly competitive business climate, time to market is a crucial differentiator that can give one company a dramatic advantage over its competitors. And, of course, enterprises that successfully improve time to market enable their clients, in turn, to achieve more success with their own customers. This ultimately helps companies expand their customer base and garner customer loyalty.
Time to market is an area where technology has played a critical role, enabling organizations to automate and streamline processes. A product or service that used to take a year and thousands of people to bring to market now might take days or even hours and far fewer people.
Technology aside, however, an organization must work well cross-functionally in order to improve time to market. Again, this is where the converged role of business and IT has become pivotal. Business units -- IT included -- can't operate in a vacuum. The business case for a new product or service must be understood by all groups involved. It must start at the top and be driven down through the organization -- all the way to IT. It is only by operating synergistically that organizations are able to truly improve their time to market.